11 Merovingian Frankish Queens

Oil painting showing Queen Fredegund at the deathbed of Bishop Praetextatus.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema  (1836–1912) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Merovingian dynasty in Gaul, or France, was prominent in the 5th and 6th centuries, as the Roman Empire was losing its force and power. Several of the queens are remembered in history: as regents, as persuaders of their husbands, and in other roles. Their husbands, many of whom did not limit themselves to just one wife at a time, were often at war with their own brothers and half-brothers. The Merovingians ruled until 751, when the Carolingians displaced them.

Queens of the Merovingian Franks

A major source for the history of these women is the "History of the Franks" by Gregory of Tours, a bishop who lived at the same time and interacted with some of the individuals listed here. Bede's "Ecclesiastic History of the English People" is another source for Frankish history.

Basina of Thuringia

  • circa 438-477
  • Queen Consort of Childeric I
  • Mother of Clovis I

Basina of Thuringia is reported to have left her first husband and to have herself proposed marriage to the Frankish king Childeric in Gaul. She was the mother of Clovis I, giving him the name Chlodovech (Clovis is the Latin form of his name).

Their daughter Audofleda married the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great. Audofleda's daughter was Amalasuntha, who ruled as Queen of the Ostrogoths.

Saint Clotilde

  • circa 470-June 3, 545
  • Queen Consort of Clovis I
  • Mother of Chlodomer of Orléan, Childebert I of Paris, Clothar I of Soissons, stepmother of Theuderic I of Metz. She had a daughter, also named Clotilde.

Clotilde convinced her husband to convert to Roman Catholicism, aligning France with Rome. It was under Clovis I that the first version of Salic Law was written, listing crimes and the punishment for those crimes. The term "Salic Law" has later become shorthand for the legal rule that women may not inherit titles, offices, and land.

Ingund of Thuringia

  • circa 499-?
  • Queen Consort of Clothar (Clotaire or Lothair) I of Soissons
  • Sister of Aregund, another wife of Clothar
  • Daughter of Baderic of Thuringia
  • Mother of Charibert I of Paris, Guntram of Burgundy, Sigebert I of Austrasia, and daughter Chlothsind

We know little about Ingund other than her family connections.

Aregund of Thuringia

  • circa 500-561
  • Queen Consort of Clothar (Clotaire or Lothair) I of Soissons
  • Sister of Ingund, another wife of Clothar
  • Daughter of Baderic of Thuringia
  • Mother of Chilperic I of Soissons

We would know as little about Aregund as about her sister (above), except that in 1959, her sepulcher was discovered. Some clothing and jewelry that was well preserved there served to identify her to the satisfaction of some scholars. Others dispute the identification and believe the sepulcher is of a later date.

A 2006 DNA test on a sample of the remains of the woman in the sepulcher, presumably Aregund, found no Middle Eastern heritage. This test was inspired by the theory made popular in "The DaVinci Code" and earlier in "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" that the Merovingian royal family was descended from Jesus. However, Aregund married into the Merovingian royal family, so the results didn't really disprove the thesis.

Radegund

  • circa 518/520-August 13, 586/587
  • Queen Consort of Clothar (Clotaire or Lothair) I of Soissons

Taken as war booty, she was not Clothar's only wife, as monogamy was not yet the standard among the Franks. She left her husband and founded a convent.

More Wives of Clothar I

Other wives or consorts of Clothar were Guntheuc (a widow of Clothar's brother Chlodomer), Chunsine, and Waldrada (he may have repudiated her).

Audovera

  • ?-circa 580
  • Queen Consort of Chilperic I, son of Clothar I and Aregund
  • Mother of a daughter, Basina, and three sons: Merovech, Theudebert, and Clovis

Fredegund (below) had Audovera and one of Audovera's sons (Clovis) killed in 580. Audovera's daughter Basina (below) was sent to a convent in 580. Another son, Theudebert, died in 575 in a battle. Her son Merovech married Brunhilde (below), after Sigebert I died. He died in 578.

Galswintha

  • circa 540-568
  • Queen Consort of Chilperic I, son of Clothar I and Aregund

Galswintha was Chilperic's second wife. Her sister was Brunhilde (below), married to Chilperic's half-brother Sigebert. Her death within a few years is usually attributed to her husband's mistress Fredegund (below).

Fredegund

  • circa 550-597
  • Queen Consort of Chilperic I, son of Clothar I and Aregund
  • Mother and regent of Chlotar (Lothair) II

Fredegund was a servant who became Chilperic's mistress. Her part in engineering the murder of his second wife Galswintha (see above) began a long war. She is considered to also be responsible for the death of Chilperic's first wife, Audovera (see above), and her son by Chilperic, Clovis.

Brunhilde

  • circa 545-613
  • Queen Consort of Sigebert I of Austrasia, who was a son of Clothar I and Ingund
  • Mother and regent of Childebert II and a daughter Ingund, grandmother of Theodoric II and Theodebert II, great-grandmother of Sigebert II

Brunhilde's sister Galswintha was married to Sigebert's half-brother Chilperic. When Galswintha was murdered by Fredegund, Brunhilde urged her husband to wage war for revenge against Fredegunde and her family.

Clotilde

  • Dates unknown
  • Daughter of Charibert of Paris, who was another son of Clothar I of Soissons and Ingund, and of one of Charibert's four wives, Marcovefa

Clotilde, who was a nun at the Convent of the Holy Cross founded by Radegund (above), was part of a rebellion. After that conflict was resolved, she did not return to the convent.

Bertha

  • 539-circa 612
  • Daughter of Charibert I of Paris and Ingoberga, one of Charibert’s four consorts
  • Sister of Clotilde, a nun, part of a conflict at the Convent of the Holy Cross with their cousin Basina
  • Queen consort of Aethelberht of Kent

She is credited with bringing Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons.

Bertha, daughter of the king of Paris, was married to Aethelberht of Kent, an Anglo-Saxon king, probably before he became king in about 558. She was a Christian and he was not. Part of the marriage agreement was that she would be permitted her religion.

She restored a church in Canterbury and it served as her private chapel. In 596 or 597, Pope Gregory I sent a monk, Augustine, to convert the English. He became known as Augustine of Canterbury, and Bertha’s support was likely important in Aethelberht’s support of Augustine’s mission. We know that Pope Gregory wrote to Bertha in 601. Aethelberht himself eventually converted and was baptized by Augustine, thus becoming the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity.

Basina

  • circa 573-?
  • Daughter of Audovera (above) and Chilperic I, who was the son of Clothar I of Souissons and Aregund (above)

Basina was sent to the Convent of the Holy Cross, founded by Radegund (above) after Basina survived an epidemic that killed two of their brothers and after Basina's stepmother had Basina's mother and surviving brother killed. She later took part in a rebellion at the convent.

Sources

  • Bede. "Ecclesiastical History of the English People." Penguin Classics, D.H. Farmer (Editor, Introduction), Ronald Latham (Editor), et al., Paperback, Revised edition, Penguin Classics, May 1, 1991. 
  • Tours, Gregory. "A History of the Franks." Paperback, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, November 23, 2016.